Limousine liberal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Limousine liberal and latte liberal are pejorative American political terms used to illustrate purported hypocritical behavior by political liberals of upper class or upper middle class status; for example, calling for the use of mass transit while frequently using privately-owned luxury transportation, especially by limousines or private jets in the case of the extremely affluent,[1] claiming environmental consciousness but driving fuel inefficient sports cars or SUVs, attacking income inequality while being wealthy themselves, or ostensibly supporting public education while actually sending their children to private schools.[2]

"Limousine liberal" is also a reference to celebrities who use their fame to influence others into agreeing with their political and societal points of view. Such celebrities' critics (including proponents of the pejorative) assert that their wealth and status keeps them out of touch with the American middle and lower middle classes they purport to support, and that they are typically blind to this disconnect.

Formation and early use[edit]

Procaccino campaign[edit]

Democratic New York City mayoral hopeful Mario Procaccino coined the term "limousine liberal" to describe incumbent Mayor John Lindsay and his wealthy Manhattan backers during a heated 1969 campaign.

It was a populist and producerist epithet, carrying an implicit accusation that the people it described were insulated from all negative consequences of their programs purported to benefit the poor, and that the costs and consequences of such programs would be borne in the main by working class or lower middle class people who were not so poor as to be beneficiaries themselves. In particular, Procaccino criticized Lindsay for favoring unemployed blacks over working-class white ethnics.[3]

One Procaccino campaign memo attacked "rich super-assimilated people who live on Fifth Avenue and maintain some choice mansions outside the city and have no feeling for the small middle class shopkeeper, home owner, etc. They preach the politics of confrontation and condone violent upheaval in society because they are not touched by it and are protected by their courtiers".[4] The Independent later stated that "Lindsay came across as all style and no substance, a 'limousine liberal' who knew nothing of the concerns of the same 'Silent Majority' that was carrying Richard Nixon to the White House at the very same time."[5]

Later use[edit]

In the 1970s, the term was applied to wealthy liberal supporters of open-housing and forced school busing who didn't make use of public schooling.[6] In Boston, Massachusetts, supporters of busing, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, sent their children to private schools or lived in affluent suburbs. To some South Boston residents, Kennedy's support of a plan that "integrated" their children with blacks and his apparent unwillingness to do the same with his own children, was hypocrisy.[7]

By the late 1990s and early 21st century, the term has also come to be applied to those who support environmentalist or "green" goals, such as mass transit, yet drive large SUVs or literally have a limousine and driver. The Weekly Standard applied the term to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX 18) for being "routinely chauffeured the one short block to work--in a government car, by a member of her staff, at the taxpayers' expense."[8] The term was also used disparagingly in a 2004 episode of Law & Order by Fred Thompson's character, Arthur Branch, to criticize the politics and beliefs of his more liberal colleague, Serena Southerlyn. South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone poked fun at the tendency of some liberals to be more concerned with image than actually helping the earth in the episode "Smug Alert!"

The New York Observer applied the term to 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for paying $400 for a haircut and, according to the newspaper, "lectures about poverty while living in gated opulence".[9]

In 2009, the term was applied by many commentators to former Senate Majority Leader and then-Obama cabinet appointee Tom Daschle for failing to pay back taxes and interest on the use of a limousine service.[10][11]

The term has often been applied to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore over the years by both critics on the left and right due to his habit of traveling around New York City in a limousine.[12][13]

Al Gore is often called a limousine liberal by his critics for his use of private jet planes[14] and SUVs,[15] while giving speeches calling for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.[16] In the May 16, 2007 edition of TIME magazine, the term was used in the allegation that "His (Gore's) Tennessee mansion consumes 20 times the electricity used by the average American home"[17]

"Lexus liberal" is a variant on the term, used to describe an upper-middle class individual who supports the same ideas of the limousine liberals, but is still out-of-touch with the actual poor they purport to feel for. The term "Lexus" is used as these liberals might not have a limousine, but are wealthy enough to afford a luxury car or high-end vehicle, such as a Lexus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Time . "Limousine Liberal Hypocrisy" by Charles Krauthammer. Published March 16, 2007.
  2. ^ NPR
  3. ^ The New York Times. "Mayoral Follies, The 1969 Edition " Published January 25, 1998.
  4. ^ The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York by Vincent J. Cannato, page 428.
  5. ^ The Independent. "Obituary: John Lindsay " Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine..Written December 22, 2000 by Rupert Cornwell.
  6. ^ "A liberal interpretation: The current definition of right- and left-" Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine. by Geoffrey Nunberg. Chicago Sun-Times. Published July 30, 2006.
  7. ^ News/Features | Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Sheila Jackson Lee, Limousine Liberal
  9. ^ Is Edwards An Easy Mark? | The New York Observer Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "The Post and Courier | Charleston SC, News, Sports, Entertainment". 2013-05-16. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  11. ^ Hart, Ron (February 8, 2009). "Future generations will pay for our mistakes". Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  12. ^ Business Insider: The REAL Fun Was At The Michael Moore Afterparty
  13. ^ Newsmax: Michael Moore: The Leni Riefenstahl of the Left Archived 2012-05-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Articles - Al Gore and the Limits of Recycling". RealClearPolitics. 2006-06-02. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  15. ^ Malkin, Michelle (2008-07-17). "Limousine liberal video of the day: Gore and his gas-guzzling fans exposed!; Update: What global warming consensus? «". Michelle Malkin. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  16. ^ Al Gore (speaker) (2008). A Generational Challenge to Repower America. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  17. ^ Krauthammer, Charles (2007-03-16). "Limousine Liberal Hypocrisy". TIME. Retrieved 2013-06-04.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fraser, Steve. The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (Basic, 2016). viii, 291 pp.